Laughter has been likened to a great unifier of people, a relaxing reliever of stressful situations, and an effective way to strengthen relationships, be it between family, friends and lovers. Indeed, when you can deliver funny jokes in a way that makes other laugh their hearts out, then you have just found one of the best relationship skills known to man.
The questions then are: Why do we laugh at funny stories, anecdotes and jokes? Why do we laugh more at certain jokes but not at others? Why do we like funny love stories more than, say, vulgar sex jokes – or the other way around, for that matter?
What Jokes Are
Let’s first define what jokes are as we know them to be in the modern world. Jokes are stories, anecdotes and one-liners that are spoken, written and done with hilarity and humour in mind. To achieve this purpose, jokes can have touches of sarcasm, irony and word play as well as physical slapstick, gestures and actions to elicit laughter from their audience.
Indeed, to use the term “funny jokes” is a redundancy but we must acknowledge the differences inherent in each individual’s sense of humour. You may appreciate the raucous stand-up comedy of Chris Rock, for example, but your partner may like Lucille Ball’s slapstick better. Each to his own taste in jokes just as each one has his own way of laughing.
How Jokes Lead to Laughter
So how exactly do funny stories, anecdotes and jokes lead to laughter? Scientists have discovered that different parts of the human brain are affected by different types of funny jokes. However, it is the medial ventral prefrontal cortex that initially reacts to the jokes themselves with the other parts of the brain process the jokes and, from there, starts the chain reaction we know as laughter. By the way, the medial prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for personality development and cognitive function.
For example, jokes take a completely different path than puns – the latter are processed in the prefrontal cortex. This explains why individuals who have brain trauma will find some jokes funny that others find blah and vice versa. The brain, after all, controls our thoughts including when, where and for how long we laugh over certain jokes including funny love stories.
Indeed, when you tell funny jokes to others, you are appealing to their brains, literally.